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Sasha Yungju Lee
EYE-CON:Pam, 1997
chromogenic print from digitally processed negative
60.6 x 150 cm
Purchased 1998
© Sasha Lee

With subversive humour, the Korean-Canadian artist Sasha Yungju Lee examines mass media images, gender identity, and racial erasure. EYE-CON, her 1997 series of computer-assisted prints, confronts normative Hollywood beauty. Presented in billboard or cinematic proportions, each print features a lavishly hand-tinted publicity still of a celebrated actress or Hollywood “icon,” ranging from Elizabeth Taylor and Doris Day to Courtney Love and Raquel Welch. Each adopts a pose appropriate to her particular screen persona – whether homespun, coquettish, or overtly eroticized. Lee draws attention to the ethnocentrism of archetypal Hollywood beauty by digitally substituting her own eyes for those of the stars. In effect, she transforms this cast of Hollywood goddesses into a biracial pantheon, underscoring the message of normalized racial hierarchies by ironically pairing each image with a statement on cosmetic surgery or racial stereotyping.

EYE-CON emerged not only from Lee’s ongoing concern about the lack of Asian representation in North American mass media, but as a personal response to the growing number of young Korean women undergoing cosmetic eye surgery in order to appear Caucasian. By performing what she aptly terms “digital surgery” on these icons of Hollywood beauty, Lee reverses the trend.